Artist Talk: Judith Belzer and Lex Brown

Artist talk, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Harvard University

Judith Belzer is a painter based in Berkeley, California. Her work explores human engagement with the natural world, often looking to the man-made landscape to consider this dynamic and sometimes uncomfortable relationship. Using imagery derived from nature, her most recent work leaves the realm of the identifiable physical landscape to ask questions about the stability and quality of our societal and private interactions.

Belzer’s work has been shown regularly throughout the United States and is held in many private and institutional collections. She earned a B.A. in English from Barnard College and studied at The New York Studio School. The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation granted Belzer a fellowship in 2014. Upcoming solo exhibitions include “Contact Hypotheses” at Anglim/Trimble Gallery in November 2021 and another, of recent work, in March 2022 at Hosfelt Gallery, which represents Belzer’s work.

Lex Brown is an artist, musician, and writer. Working fluidly across art forms, her work uses poetry and science-fiction to create an index for our psychological and emotional experiences as organic beings in a rapidly technologized world. She has performed and exhibited work at the New Museum, the High Line, the International Center of Photography, Recess, and The Kitchen (New York); REDCAT Theater and The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; The Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore; and at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. Brown holds degrees from Yale University (MFA) and Princeton University (BA). She is the author of My Wet Hot Drone Summer, a sci-fi erotic novella that takes on surveillance and social justice, first edition published by Badlands Unlimited. Consciousness, a survey of Brown’s work spanning the past 8 years, is available in limited hand-bound edition from GenderFail. Containing documentation from 46 different videos and performances, as well as 33 original song lyrics performed in artist-run spaces, museums, music venues, and galleries it is Brown’s first book to have been acquired by the collections of the Met, MoMA, and Whitney museums amongst other notable collections. Brown teaches as a Media Fellow in Art, Film, & Visual Studies and Theater, Dance, & Media at Harvard University.

Judith Belzer at dosa818, April 2009

Judith Belzer at dosa818
By Guillaume Wolf, April 8, 2009

WHITEWALL: Judith, tell me more about “Trees, Inside Out.”

JUDITH BELZER: This project started when Christina [Kim, the owner of dosa818] came to me and said that she was interested in doing a project for this space. Her spring line was somehow inspired by my work that she had seen in my studio. And she said that she wanted me to do something that would surprise her clients and her, as well. Because the space is so large and there’s so much light, because really I do two-dimensional work on the wall, I wanted to come up with an idea that would be both respectful of the space and present the work in an interesting way. I’ve been working towards an interest in creating a sense of being inside nature and this provided an opportunity to develop an idea that allowed experience of trees and nature, both from the exterior from the outside and travelling to the inside of trees.

WW: We have two plywood casings and the paintings are integrated inside the boxes.

JB: The couple of paintings on the outside are set into the plane of the outside and are referring to bark and the outside of trees. Then you step up into the structure and they are paintings about the inside of trees. It’s about the inner life of trees and our experience when you walk up to them, trying to project what’s going on inside of nature, and that it’s not an inert thing. It’s a constantly moving, dynamic experience in our every day lives.

I was very interested in using plywood to build the structures because, first of all, it’s from the core of trees and it’s a very urban setting. And I wanted to have a juxtaposition of images taken from my memory of walking outside and juxtapose it with the everyday, mundane material and making a relationship between the construction materials and the painting. I’m interested in nature, not as a remote romantic idea, but something that’s related to our everyday life. Plywood is equally involved in our everyday life as a tree outside our door. This is not a special view of nature it’s about an everyday view of nature and trying to establish a much closer relationship.

I’m interested in nature, not as a remote romantic idea

I wanted the two structures to have a different feel. One is square and closer to the ground and has larger paintings. This box is taller, sort of more elevated, and the paintings on the outside are verticals and I’ve broken it up into small pieces on the inside. So the boxes have different characters. That was the idea.

WW: Does this installation reflect on, “What’s your connection with ecology?” Is it a new consciousness? Is it overplayed?

JB: I don’t think it’s overplayed. I’m not that interested in work that’s around that has to do with the environment. It seems like people could just write an article. It’s not related to the actual visual experience. I’m interested in giving an opportunity for people to make a relationship with nature so that they can hopefully think beyond all the things that we’ve done to create all the ecological problems. It seems like the first step to think about what to do is to actually have a relationship with nature and see that we’re apart of it and it’s part of our everyday life, hopefully bringing it closer to us and engaging with nature so that we can sort of really think about the issues we have in front of us.